Research has shown that the quality of life of patients facing cancer is severely impaired, even more so when they have to undergo difficult treatments such as chemotherapy and stem cell transplants. It is therefore essential to support these patients, especially to prevent the onset of significant levels of emotional distress, even depression and severe anxiety.
To best help these patients, there are non-pharmacological interventions that have shown benefits in helping them adapt to cancer. Programs combining virtual reality and hypnosis (VRH) are booming. They distract patients from acute pain and anxiety, allowing them to take an imaginary journey through pleasant images and sounds. As these programs are still new, they need to be improved.
To achieve this, researchers recommend studying the best ways of using it with frail patients, and programming them to provide more individualized care. In response to these recommendations, and to best support our patients, a new RVH program has been developed by clinicians, researchers, digital artists and patient partners. Its aim is to facilitate the patient’s absorption into a safe, benevolent imaginary world, in which he or she is invited to live an experience that distracts him or her from negative emotions and physical discomforts (e.g. pain, nausea). During this experience, the patient will be accompanied by a caregiver via an avatar, to offer individualized care.
Through this research project, we will be implementing two activities that will enable us to meet two complementary objectives. On the one hand, we will evaluate the user experience through satisfaction questionnaires and research interviews with partner patients in remission from cancer who will test our program. This study will enable us to gather their opinions and recommendations, which will enable us to improve our program, so that it corresponds as closely as possible to the reality of cancer patients.
On the other hand, we will evaluate the effects of the RVH program on patients with multiple myeloma, one of the most aggressive hematological cancers, and one whose treatments produce the most side effects. It is during stem cell transplantation that we will conduct a study comparing the effects of our new RVH program with those of standard psychological support, which is usually offered to these patients. We will evaluate whether our program improves patients’ quality of life and thereby reduces emotional distress.
If our results are positive, we will evaluate our program with other oncology patients. We will then offer training courses to healthcare professionals, with a view to extending this project to other cancer centers in Quebec and elsewhere in the French-speaking world, in order to significantly improve our patients’ quality of life.